In a historic first bid to restock Malawi’s Kasungu National Park, conservationists have begun translocating zebra and waterbuck to the 240,000²-hectare wildlife reserve.
The first seven Zebra — four mares and three stallions arrived at Kasungu on Wednesday.
A statement issued by Theresa Chapulapula, communications officer for International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), says in total 12 zebras and 14 waterbucks are being moved from Kuti Wildlife Ranch in Salima in conjunction with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW).
“The relocation of the wildlife is to be celebrated,” says the statement, quoting IFAW Director of Law Enforcement, Mike Labuschagne.
“It means that Kasungu National Park is finally a safe place for wildlife to roam free without the threat of poaching and speaks to our successes in restoring and safeguarding the park.
IFAW began work in 2015 to rebuild Kasungu National Park’s infrastructure, train an effective and efficient wildlife ranger force and end rampant poaching of wildlife that saw elephant populations dip to about 50, from a historical high of over 1,000 in the 1970s.
Populations of most other wildlife such as antelopes, zebra and other plains game were virtually extinct.
“Five years ago only six zebra remained alive in the park – from around 500 individuals while the population of waterbuck, which used to number 300, were poached to local extinction by the 1990s,” Labuschagne is quoted as saying.
“Working with the DNPW and with the support of the community, we’ve managed to virtually stamp out poaching altogether at Kasungu and are seeing a steady rise in populations of elephant as well as regular sightings of other animals such as wild dog, leopard and even lions.”
DNPW director, Brighton Kumchedwa said the translocation was historic and an important step in restoring Kasungu National Park to its former glory as a popular tourist attraction.
“The decision by DNPW and IFAW to reintroduce waterbuck and add to the small existing herd of zebra means we’re confident these animals will be able to thrive safe from danger.
“Additionally, zebra are a key attraction for tourists and a growing herd will boost Kasungu NP’s appeal for visitors. In turn that will provide much-needed economic stimulus to local communities,” Kumchedwa said.
Purchased by IFAW as a part of restoring species diversity in Kasungu, the additional zebra will increase current numbers to 21, considered a founder or breeding herd. All zebra moved will be adult.
The introduction of 14 waterbuck will be the first step in re-establishing a herd in the park and also all the waterbuck will be adults.
IFW’s Labuschagne, head of research at DNPW Mathews Mumba and IFAW volunteer Sharon Maisey, lead the relocation along with four Kasungu National Park Rangers, assisted by wildlife vet, Hezy Anholt.
IFAW works with the DNPW through its Combating Wildlife Crime in the Malawi-Zambia Transboundary Landscape project that focuses on anti-poaching and anti-trafficking initiatives.
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animal and people thrive together. They are experts working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world.
The organisation rescues, rehabilitates and releases animals into the wild as it strives to restore and protect their natural habitats.
“The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated,” says IFAW. “To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action.
“We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish.”